Posted in Health Issues, Lost in Thought

Mindfulness Experiment Gone Awry

A good way of escaping unwelcome introspection, I’ve read, is to imagine yourself in the ocean. The colourful fish swimming past you are your thoughts — you observe them swimming past, perhaps going round you a few times, then they are gone.

My initial reaction, really, is that I don’t want to be in the ocean! Just yesterday I viewed a photo of sting-rays and sharks nosing sharply around, and that’s the image that came to mind when I read the above idea.

Some of my thoughts might well be sharks, not clown fish. I wonder how many other people out there would empathize with this? Well, let’s just go with this mental image for a while, and see what happens. Here’s me floating in the murky sea water, surrounded by flitting predatorial shapes.

What is this shark? He’s looking right in my face, like the old fellow from that turtle film, Sammy’s Adventures. What does he represent?

Whoa!

When I started the exercise, I closed my eyes and visualized a 3D cartoon image because of remembering about Sammy the turtle, then linked the looming shark to the worries in my mind. Instantly, the oceans closed in. Depths dropped away below me, all my friends were gone, no safety anywhere. Nothing was in my future but cold drowning and too many teeth.

Do what you do with a nightmare — banish it. Swim back up for a few breaths of fresh air. I don’t think that’s what they had in mind… I’m supposed to be relaxing happily, my thoughts swimming past and disappearing unchallenged. How do you let go of a big grey Thought that’s taking far too much interest in you?

Summoning it up in that form may have been a mistake, unless I take control and cause it to swim away. Is that doable? No, it’s just hanging there in the water, staring at me. I can’t imagine it gone. Even if it swam off, it would circle round then return.

“Do I look like food to you?” as Sammy said to the wee red fish, who grinned toothily and nodded. This is not my idea of relaxation. Maybe I could try an inflatable swimming pool instead?

Hmm… Ground feels bumpy underneath, but at least nothing is swimming around in here. (Feels around dubiously). There’s grit in the pool, and bits of grass. When I climbed in, I took bits of the lawn with me, stuck to the soles of my feet. Irritating.

Any minute now, somebody’s going to scream at me to come in for lunch.

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Posted in Health Issues

Online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: a patient’s view

I finished the online CBT course on Friday. Do I feel any different? No… just relieved it’s over!

A number of people on the forum say it made things better for them.

“It must be nice to be you,” I mused enviously. “Able to say something positive and encouraging about the course, and follow it up with a ‘thank you!’ That’s the desirable reaction.” Some went so far as to say it has turned their lives around. It would be amazing to be able to say that.

One or two, on the other hand, say they didn’t find it helpful. I was disappointed we were in the minority, but maybe only a few of us negative nellies made it to the final session. I read that a lot of people drop out of the course. It shouldn’t have taken me so long, but I had a long hiatus in the middle.

The course is intended for ‘mild to moderate depression or anxiety’, but it seems if it doesn’t work, it’s because of “low adherence and engagement with treatment, rather than lack of efficacy.” See the Guardian article: Questions raised over effectiveness of online CBT for treating depression

I don’t know enough myself to be able to pinpoint why it works for some and not others — can only give my personal experience.

A lot of the time when I was trying to do the CBT exercises, I felt irritated, even angry. If I put it down and did something else for a while, I would eventually be able to complete the exercises, but my heart wasn’t in it… I felt distanced from what I was doing. For instance, I had to list positive self-beliefs, and was jollied along with, “don’t be modest.”

Having got over my spat of grumpiness, I wrote: “I read a lot; I write well; I try to improve my artwork.”

As the online course reminded us, ‘practice makes perfect’. I’m supposed to keep doing these exercises; these tools to improve my mood or how I handle things — but right now I look at those three self-beliefs and feel on the low side of neutral. I’m confused about the kind of beliefs I’m supposed to come up with, and have a sneaking feeling I got it wrong. This exercise is a spin-off from a section about ‘attributional style‘. Healthy beliefs about oneself should be ‘permanent, internal and general’ as opposed to ‘specific, external and temporary’.

So… ‘I read a lot’… is that specific or general? I would have said ‘specific,’ as it’s a specific thing that I do, but the relevance by-passes me at the moment.

It’s internal, I think, because it’s a way of taking credit to myself. I’m not depending on someone else to do all my reading for me! Also, it’s a permanent belief; I read a lot while I can. So what does a temporary belief look like? “I read a leaflet yesterday but probably won’t bother again?”

A lot of people on the CBT forum seem to like that exercise, so they must know what it means and how to correctly label their beliefs. It’s just me who’s the numpty!

Come to think of it, “I was lucky to win that tennis match,” is probably a temporary belief. A more self-believing belief would be, “I won the match because I’m a good tennis player.” No wait, that’s an internal belief, whereas “I was just lucky” is external because the gods smiled on you.

“I read a lot” doesn’t make me feel I can take on the world. People write such contradictory things I find myself believing stuff that cancel each other out, don’t know what to believe, or do daft things because I uncritically internalized the last thing I read. So much for all that reading.

At any rate, perhaps a better self-belief would be “I am kind.” That’s more ‘general’ because it’s something I am, whereas “I read a lot” is a specific belief because it’s something I do… though don’t take my word for it!

It should really be “I am sometimes quite kind.” 😛 Does that make it a more temporary belief? Is that the very thing I’m being warned against by the CBT course? I would probably be told I’m giving away credit for my success.

Well, that brings us to the point of the attributional style. When you have successes or disappointments in life, you use your self-belief in the following way: “I made a new friend today because I’m kind.”

That would be better than saying, “I made a new friend today because the other person is kind,” which would suggest there’s nothing about you the other person thought was remarkable.

“I made a new friend today because I was on my best behaviour and hid my usual surliness”… that’s pretty realistic for many people, especially me, but I think the CBT would frown on it!

I could just switch off the niggles in my head and say, “I made a new friend because I’m kind and witty and clever, and the other person likes me.”

Does that make me feel good? Hmm……..

Just had a lightbulb moment! I noticed the word ‘control’ when reading online about attributional style. People are depressed and anxious if they don’t feel in control, so it makes sense that being able to make more powerful statements should be beneficial. That’s easier for me to grasp than whether or not my beliefs are ‘permanent, internal and general’.

I hate to be curmudgeonly, but you’ll note I didn’t say that I believe telling myself that I believe something that I don’t believe is going to make me step out more confidently! However, since practice makes perfect, I will keep trying the various exercises for a while. I would enjoy setting up a special CBT journal to fill in every day… though perhaps actually filling it in is another story?

Posted in Art, Health Issues

Badly Painted Germ

Evil looking and shapeless creature.Sitting up in the middle of the night with a hot forehead. Must have caught something in town.

 You ask yourself, “What did I touch?!” but of course if could have been anything. Shop doors, clothes-hangers, the edge of the coffee shop table… who knows?

I should email a friend while I have the light on. She sent a photo at 5:30 yesterday morning, so I should return the favour. It’s fortunate that digital photos don’t arrive at the other end with germs on them.

If I were a speed painter, I could paint her a picture. Unfortunately I know I would still be labouring over it by Christmas, so I better not even start.

Have just checked the headlines. “Jeremy Clarkson in hospital with pneumonia”. (Panics slightly)… no, that’s not what I have. Surely.

Looking at other news, I have nothing to complain about, really.

Will send her a badly painted germ… yes, I painted it anyway, despite my doubts. So it can be done.

Posted in Agoraphobia, Health Issues, Life and Family

Shrouded in Scottish Gloom

The garden looks really good just now. My sister takes care of it every weekend, and I’m amazed at how neat and pretty it is. When I peek out the back door and smell lilac, I understand why gardeners love what they do. There’s something sane, calm and peaceful about the outdoor landscape… it’s an escape for practical, hard-working people.

It makes me yearn to be that kind of person too.

I’m more the kind of person who strolls around with a camera and feels happy at the beauty other people have created. Unfortunately, Scotland doesn’t like us to have heatwaves for very long, and there’s a lot of dreich weather at the moment. Yesterday it couldn’t make up its mind between strong sun, drenching rain, and the occasional bolt of lightning. Today it decided to go ‘all rain’… dark grey clouds parading overhead with shimmering sheets of crystals dangling from their misty earlobes.

When the day was at its darkest, I came across a monster snail clinging to the upstairs window. It reminded me of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea… water all around and this muscular, glistening creature seeking a way in. Visualizing its fellows squirming all over the house, roof and all, I could understand my mother’s utter abomination of them. She gets the same look on her face that Ripley gets in Alien.

If you were on a spaceship with those things on it, you’d do better with her as a shipmate than me.

I don’t mind the odd snail or group of snails, but we have too many. They slither all over — slugs too — and roll on their backs, drinking in the downpours.

The other night I was trying to move a wheelie bin without stepping on a single invertebrate, and it was impossible. I swear there was either a slug or a snail trekking across each square foot of ground, and because it was dark, I couldn’t even see them all. Despite the best I could do, the bin and I left a trail of devastation in our wake.

Have I complained about this before? I’ve a feeling I have.

Anyhow, with the lowering weather, some sadness, and a general feeling of being under siege, it seemed a good day to activate my online CBT account.

“What’s that?” you say, suddenly looking nervous. “CBT??”

Our GP thinks it might help combat my chronic anxiety, but I ignored the activation request for two weeks. I could always think of something better to do! I don’t have raging agoraphobia any more, but I’ve had a traumatic few years… it’s like a sleeping Leviathan stirring. If it comes up again, it could be bad.

I don’t like cognitive behavioural therapy. I’ve tried it before and it left me bemused. I felt more stressed attending the sessions than at any other time, so I cut them short.

I have to confess, when I read that I would need to have a working printer in order to do the current course, I was irritated. We have ours loaded with 100gsm stuff. I was determined not to start the course till I’d dived out and bought the cheapest paper I could find — 75gsm. I put that in on top.

OK, well, I activated the CBT course today, answered a raft of multiple choice questions, then it suddenly stopped, and I was confused. It just told me I would need an up-to-date Flash Player (which I’ve got) in order to be able to view my sessions, but I couldn’t see any other links, or a home page, or even a bit of text saying “thank you — see you next week!” or something of the kind.

Is this typical NHS behaviour?

I’ve had similar emails when asking for appointments… no ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ or individual names… just come straight to the point then drop out of sight. You can imagine the staff rushing around like busy ants, so you don’t really resent it, but it’s still a little… leaves you feeling like one of those cartoon characters who was walking on rock and is now pedalling in mid-air.

Thinking about it, it was just the ‘activation’ I was engaged in… if I went back, the first session would be there waiting.

Brr.

Perhaps it’s all one big cryptic puzzle designed to keep me engaged trying to figure it out so that I don’t have time to stress about anything. There was a multiple choice question I didn’t understand at all, and the only way I could dodge it was to pick the most non-committal response. I felt like turning to someone and saying, “Sorry, what do you mean?” Instead, I said it to the empty room.

I should raise that question with them in case it turns out to be something important… or is that typical catastrophic thinking? What significance could a single, vaguely-worded question have? I gave them a vaguely-worded response… fair dos.

Meanwhile, none of this helped the cats with their own issues. They sat miserably at the back door, looking out at the slurping snails. As far as they’re concerned, this type of day shouldn’t be allowed.

Posted in Health Issues, Life and Family, My Cats

A Gold Toothless and Other Ramblings

There’s a touch of blogger’s block going on here.

A couple of days ago a friend happened to mention it’s a good trick to write for yourself only, not for any particular audience, and to avoid editing as you write.

Today I’ll just write and see what happens.

Yesterday my sister replaced the broken old cat flap. When I checked it out, My boy cat (blog name Samson) sat bolt upright, ears straight up, staring brightly at me, one eye slowly closing in a quizzical wink. It looked like he was saying, “Well? What do you think?”

You would think he had bought and fitted it himself. And I was reminded of someone. Every so often I’ll look at him and be bothered by the feeling he’s like a character on TV, but I can never remember who. Eventually it hits me… it’s Toothless. Never anybody else. Just Toothless.

I don’t have Toothless in mind already and say “Toothless is like Samson”… I don’t do that. I can never remember who I’m being reminded of, but the resemblance… something in the expression and posture… is strong.

Although mostly silent, Samson seems to be communicating with every fibre of his being. He’ll sit and stare intently at you, and the minute you turn and catch his eye, he leans forward and his face is absolutely radiant.

Nothing cheers you up quicker. 🙂

My mother is unwell; eating very little these days. For supper last night she had three breaded scampi and an onion ring. Today she managed a poached egg on toast. When I brought a plate of food the other night, she courageously drew herself up to meet it. I said she looked like a contestant on I’m a Celebrity, about to eat something with sixteen legs.

Christmas will be a puzzle this year, as I’ve not been getting out to shop. I feel there’s not much time left online either. Still… As the citizens of Whoville found out in The Grinch, Christmas is Christmas all on its own. We still have our trappings… a six-foot silver tree, lights and decorations. The cats with their 3D superstar impressions. Sisterly visits. There will be turkey, roast potatoes and bread sauce on the day.

I’ve been avoiding Facebook for most of the year, but decided there would be no harm in checking in with people over Christmas. Was surprised to find some really lovely comments about one of my cats… two pages of them! Perhaps my friend is right when she said you can make Facebook work for you. Check your privacy settings. Choose who you want to interact with, and write about those things that are tongue-in-cheek and fun. Don’t get all serious, angry or political. If you’re not enjoying somebody’s statuses, quietly unfollow them.

Well, perhaps. It still feels to me like we’re shark-bait.

It’s nice to get away from the internet from time to time. Talking of which, I have a lot of DVDs and am in the mood to watch some. I don’t often get the chance to, but when I can, there are old favourites I have in mind.

How to Train Your Dragon
Horton Hears a Who
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Young Montalbano
Master and Commander
Cadfael
The Croods

Those will be a good start.

*This was just an attempt to kick-start my failing blogging habit. Normal service will be resumed shortly.*

Posted in Health Issues

Just Had the ‘Grue’

Was annoyed when I came down with the cold… I knew it was going to interrupt everything, and so it did. Blog, business in town, Christmas shopping, grocery shopping, housework, organizing stuff… everything!

A friend and I agreed there needs to be a word for something that’s halfway between a cold and a flu, as you want to make it clear to the office you’re not well enough to leave the house, even if you were well enough to get out of bed. If you say “I have a cold,” they think maybe you could have come in anyway, but if you say “I have flu,” scorn is poured on you for overestimating what is wrong with you. You can’t win!

I was reading that you can have ‘flu-like symptoms’ caused by whatever flu virus is going around, though it isn’t flu you’ve got… clear as mud! I suppose you could phone up and say “I have flu-like symptoms” but that sounds as though you’re not quite sure that you’ve got anything!

Perhaps we should make up a word of our own, seeing as the doctors don’t appear to have any suggestions. Coldenza? Grue?

Of course, there are probably things we do say, like “I have a bug, a virus, what’s going around.” If I thought of it in time, I’d go with ‘bug’. I usually don’t realize ‘there’s something going round’ till it nobbles me!

Have been mourning my weakest cells. Poor little things.

Posted in Health Issues, Observations

I Hate Colds

Just to let folks know I’ve got a monster of a cold! It started innocently with a mild throat, and I thought it would be over in 24 hours. But it’s like nibbling at a tiny leaf only to have something huge and scaly erupt through the sand!

Gaaaarrrgh.

Hope to get back on the blog-beat soon, but I’ll be taking it slow for a few days.

Posted in Books, Health Issues, Hearing Loss, Life and Family

Inner Rabbit

This is me… wearing Euphoria perfume and making mistakes! Missing words when I write and adding wrong endings such as ‘-ing’ and ‘-ed’ where they aren’t wanted. Making a multitude of typing errors on the flat Mac keyboard (ones that I don’t make on ordinary keyboards… in particular I seem to hit the comma when I’m aiming for the full stop. Worse, I scatter the letter ‘f’ through my words when trying to find my place by touch).

Trying to find somewhere on my desk to lay out a sheet of paper I’m copying from, but there’s no room. Then I remember I’ve got a nice solid copy holder somewhere, but I’m not sure where. Find it on my desk, sitting beside me. Prop the paper on it, not bothering to fasten it with the bar. This won’t take long.

*** *** ***

It’s half past 8 on a Tuesday night — feels more like it was Monday. Golden sunlight in the dimming outdoors, glancing off the tops of the clematis and off the sides of the trees. Sky a soft pale blue. Sun was pouring down through the loft hatchway upstairs, pooling in the middle of the soft gloom of the landing.

TV downstairs is on — one of those music shows of Simon Cowell watching dance groups that all look the same. A very nervous girl has just walked offstage in a skimpy outfit she’s not comfortable in — she looks as though in her mind she has already lost, and she is probably right. I don’t hear their remarks on the TV, or any of the music… though the music phantom in my muffled brain is playing some dignified, ‘big’, dramatic voiceless rock music that I know well and can’t identify. It’s one of the tunes that’s often there. Makes you think of sun setting slowly over heavy, glinting seas.

I’m drinking the dregs of yesterday’s coffee — it’s like stewed sawdust in water. There’s milk in it but no sugar. There are pigeons in the trees outside. Pecking, preening, flying off occasionally but always coming back. This is their home. They suffer somehow through the frosts of winter and are still here in the spring. I watch them and they watch me.

Mum is playing solitaire on her laptop. She’s moving the cordless mouse on a tray on her knee and is leaning back. It seems tired and disengaged. She said during the day she had a headache — perhaps it has not gone.

*** *** ***

My eyes smart a little, especially the left. I was at the opticians today, having a ‘full’ eye test. At one point in the proceedings she was shining a very white bright light in my eyes. The left eye stood up to it reasonably well, but the right eye kept fluttering and closing.

I nearly started whimpering in the middle of my interview with the optician — she pretended not to notice, but her bright cheeriness and warmth redoubled. I’d been upset all morning. I felt tired of trying to talk to people, maybe about important things like my eyesight, and not hearing anything they say unless they repeat fifty times or write it down. You miss things and make mistakes because of it, which results in repeat appointments etc… the very last thing you want.

I’d even got tired of pretending that I’m on board with everybody else — the polite nodding and smiling that smooths most of it over while feeling confusion about who people are and how they spend their time. Pretending I know whether a stranger has said “may I sit here?” or “is anybody sitting here?” to which the answer will be ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or ‘no’ or ‘yes’, depending. And all the time, a guilty, creeping boredom and resentment that has to be disguised.

Today I froze in the headlights, and waited for it all to stop.

I sighed and cheered up when the optician said my eyes were very healthy. I notice she didn’t add “for your age,” but I knew it was true. With my floaters, dry eyes, varifocals and blurring eyesight, it seemed an unlikely diagnosis. Especially when she said “you see better than 20/20 with your spex [sic]“, which my mother said she thought only Superman could do. Last week she said she and my sister have high blood pressure and that I might too… but I haven’t yet, it seems. Maybe because I’m the protected youngest, or because I was so sluggish this morning. “I felt like roadkill,” I said, and Mum said “you looked it.”

I suppose the thought of being deaf AND blind terrifies me. I wouldn’t be able to read what people say to me, and that would destroy what communications I have. It would just be me and the ‘music phantom’ in my head, and vague rumblings and vibrations in my environment. Perhaps a cat on my lap.

*** *** ***

It’s 0:20 the next morning and I’ve gone to bed. A Piggin leans on my shoulder. I’ve drained a glass of slightly too acid tomato juice — won’t buy that brand again. My Kindle is next to my bed in its pink Shocksock… I’m reading a rather poor whodunnit set in Egypt. But it’s not so poor that I need to stop.

The Kindle changes the way I buy books. I nearly bought an L.E. Modesitt Jr hardback for £1.50 from a charity shop, but when I noticed the stained pages, I put it back. I wonder, “do I really want MORE books taking up space, especially blemished ones that I’m too squeamish to touch? I could buy it for my eReader and highlight the bits I like, and leave it in my Amazon archive.”

It’s more comfortable reading and writing without my glasses. Everything at some sort of distance is a blur… shape, colour and a soft shine… no detail. Closer to, my hands and writing are clear. My long hair is a dark haze that frames my vision.

Last night I dreamed about white werewolves. As I watched a big one loping along, I grew nervous and asked myself why I was so relaxed? Then I remembered the werewolf was a friend who was helping me. I relaxed again, but then woke up and remembered the optician, and really didn’t want to go out.

Day came to an end eventually though, with golden sunlight and so on. It wasn’t all bad, any more than the werewolf was… though my inner rabbit waits behind my eyes, ready to pounce!

Posted in Health Issues, Technology and Software

Magic Mouse Syndrome

I’ve been having pain in my hands for a while… every so often when I lift something mildly heavy (like a kettle) or crumple my hand, I get a nagging twinge in my palm that makes me regret it! Maybe I have been using my computer mouse too much lately (this creative spark I mentioned… lots of erasing; scrolling through Photoshop filters; creating new layers. Painting here (dab dab dab). Cloning there (more dabbing)). I haven’t had that particular pain before, so the next thing that crossed my mind is that it’s the Magic Mouse in particular.

Other people online have complained about pain in the wrist and palm after using this rather flat, sensitive and twiddly gadget… you can’t rest your hand on it, as you would scroll and zoom without meaning to!

I don’t like the new, flat Apple Mac keyboards either… I’m a reasonably fast typist, but these boards make my hands feel strained, and I make a lot of mistakes.

I guess there are three things I should do:

(1) take a break from the computer!

(2) cut my talons (these flat keyboards were not made with long-nailed ladies in mind, and I end up stabbing the keys with the tips of my claws)

(3) dig out my graphics tablet again, and do all that Photoshop dab-dabbing with a pen instead of a mouse.

Tomorrow….

Posted in Gender Issues, Health Issues

A Somewhat Feminist Issue

I don’t seem to be keeping up with ‘post once a week’… feeling tired at the moment. Hoping to improve in a week or two.

Here’s a subject I had in mind to bring up… it’s a bit risqué for me; on the other hand it strikes me as common sense and related to health. In fact, that is one of the points raised on the site I’m linking to… that some people might see it as a risqué subject, but it really shouldn’t be. Anyway, giving thought to this might make all the difference to the health of some women.

Why Wear Bras?

The thing that keeps me toeing the line (when I go out) is knowing that people do seem to watch women, and they know when you’re not wearing one, and insult you behind your back. You see it on blogs all the time: that’s how you know it happens! But maybe such attitudes should be challenged?